That is it for The Hunger Games series, and let me begin this review with a spoiler warning. Although to be perfectly frank I don’t think I am at risk of fan-rage if I give away plot points, since real fans will have absorbed the book a dozen times. Nothing major in the film deviates from the book, so here we go.
This series is remarkable in that its target audience is teenagers, and it’s an accurate portrayal of the violence of war, and the science of propaganda. Katniss Everdeen — Jennifer Lawrence — the Mockingjay is the trump propaganda card. And she is played by both sides throughout the series. A constant theme is the importance of using propaganda to affect the duration of physical battles, saving lives by affecting surrender etc.
I was impressed by the authenticity of the film in stressing the aimlessness of tyrannous violence. You have punished and killed people, taken their weapons and supplies, and invaded their city. You have already made your point. But the tyrant goes too far. Children are orphaned, and then themselves killed. The only thing that matters is the lie told by the screen. The selection of images to present a construct to the people in order to bribe them of their consent. Mockingjay Part 2 is really a Shakespearean power drama, or a reinterpretation of an ancient Greek legend. The hydra of political power cannot be cut off without more sprouting to take its place.
Only the hero can slay the monster, and only the Mockingjay can put and end to the Hunger Games. Yes, this is about the building of democracy to succeed oligarchy, and the American elements of elected Presidential power at the end are hinted at a little too clumsily. But I have got thoroughly ahead of myself. Back to the core of the movie.
President Snow (played by Donald Sutherland) is a Ceaușescu-like figure (Nicolae Ceaușescu was the Romanian communist president overthrown and executed in 1989) but unlike Ceaușescu he fights to the bitter end of his regime. He is mirrored by President Coin of District 13 (Julianne Moore) who claims power among the ruins of Snow’s temple. Will she complete the removal? Or will she rebuild the temple and continue the tyranny?
The film is merciless with the killing of characters, and many of them bite the dust having built up quite a bit of emotional connection with the audience. However, the action is propelled forward by the necessity of completing the revolution, which keeps things humming along. The last movie had a few too many moments of nothing, and the narrative suffered as a consequence.
The last installment is brilliant until its climax. Then it commits the Lord of the Rings sin of having too many endings. You could turn off the movie at any point in the last twenty minutes and feel like the plot is concluded. That is bad story telling because it is indulging something other than the narrative. It is indulging fans, who don’t want it to end. I say this is bad from a story telling perspective, but not from the perspective of a viewer wanting to see all the ends neatly tied off.
Really the plot of the film ends twenty-five minutes before the credits roll, and the rest is an anti-climax. But it doesn’t matter. It is the last film in the series and can afford to be a little sloppy and indulgent. I remain very impressed that the violence could be shown so forcefully, and the authenticity of war could be ensured. What is missing is blood, and I assume that is what got it past the censors, so that can be forgiven.
Lastly it was probably the last time I’ll see Philip Seymour Hoffman on the big screen, and that is a melancholy thought. Most of his part was unaffected by his death, save one very obvious scene where Woody Harrelson delivers a message on his behalf. I am glad they didn’t try to digitise a performance out of the late Hoffman. He is not a puppet.
To the final recommendation. See the film or not? See it of course, what a crazy question!